I Am Every Good Thing [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Derrick Barnes Illustrated by Gordon C. James
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books (2020)
ISBN: 0525518770 (ISBN13: 9780525518778). Borrowed from NLB Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
As the title already suggests, this book is a celebration of “every good thing” our children are. I find the book cover to be especially riveting, with this beautiful black boy, his legs apart in a confident stance, arms kept to himself, looking down on the reader, as opposed to looking up, elevating him to a position of power.
The entire narrative is bounding with confidence, self-assurance, and affirmation of one’s spirit, especially in the first few pages. There is clear rhythm and a resounding beat to the words that ring true. This exuberance is matched by the bright colours, the joyful smiles, the constant movement and propensity for flight, always up, up, and up.
Yet, there is also a grounded recognition that life isn’t always kind, and there is cause to be afraid, “every now and then.” As the image above says: “I am not what they might call me, and I will not answer to any name that is not my own. I am what I say I am.”
In the Dedication Page, the author indicated that he wrote the book for Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, EJ Bradford, Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, and Julian Mallory. While the entire declaration here may be perceived as a political statement, it felt deeply personal, and never heavy-handed. It is brimming with positivity, without glossing over the bad stuff that makes the good come out, all sweet and gooey.
I read this book aloud to my PhD class taking up my higher degree course on Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students with the message that as educators, we must also begin seeing ourselves as every good thing in this world. We are change makers and do-gooders, and we need to convey that same message to all the young people under our care. This is a beautiful book. I predict that it will win all them awards next year.
#ReadIntl2020 Update: Both author and illustrator are POC.